Friday, July 5, 2013
To understand why Blood Dragon is so great, we have to go back to the 1980s, where most of its influences came from. This was the Age of the Action Movie, power fantasies where a lone hero fights his way through waves of evil enemies and single-handedly saves the day. The peak of this glorious age was the early 90s when, incidentally, video games were beginning to come into their own. No longer limited to squares fighting other, differently colored squares, games could render actual characters and 3D spaces. It was during this time that someone had the brilliant idea of making a game inspired by these action movie ideas. The earliest shooters were about lone badasses fighting their way through legions of inhuman monsters, usually Nazis or demons. They were violent, but in an over-the-top fantasy way.
The reactions to the end of Mass Effect 3 fall into two camps. There's the "The end was literally worse than 1000 Holocausts" camp, and there's the "What game were those guys playing, I thought it was fine" camp. I fall into the second camp, and here is why I think the ending works.
First we have to talk about video game endings as a whole. Games are a new medium, and so there aren't really many established rules for their structure. In old-school storytelling, the classic structure of an ending was the Climax. Here the main conflict is finally resolved, and the protagonist's arc is over (think Star Wars, the king of simple classic storytelling). Obviously many great works of art do not follow this basic structure, but they always do so for a specific reason. A good example of this is Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Instead of ending with a big final battle, the film ends with the characters being arrested and a sudden cut to black. The Pythons break the rule because it's funnier that way.